There are few tougher jobs in baseball than serving as the Team USA manager for the World Baseball Classic. Venezuela manager Luis Sojo may argue that point these days, but few managers are ever presented with the Hobson’s Choices that Joe Torre faces.
The first job of a Team USA manager is to ask, plead and if necessary cajole players to agree to play in the World Baseball Classic. Once that’s done, you then have to go back and promise their teams that you’ll take good care of them. Pitchers won’t be overused and players won’t sit on the bench for the whole tournament, returning to their teams behind on their timetable of getting ready for the season. Putting the best lineup on the field sometimes is a secondary concern.
That’s the explanation for Team USA’s lineup for its Sunday game against Canada. In a must-win game where the winner advances to the second round, Torre had to shuffle things up. Ben Zobrist starts in right field. Ryan Braun gets to rest his legs by playing at designated hitter. And Shane Victorino gets his first start of the tournament in left field.
The odd man out–Giancarlo Stanton.
Yes, if you were building a current big league team, there is likely not one manager or general manager who would want Victorino (.255/.321/.383 in 2012) in the lineup over Stanton (.290/.361/..608 in 2012). But a promise is a promise, so Victorino starts and Stanton sits.
“It is what it is … I had given my words to all the managers that I would take care of their players,” Torre said.
Torre will also make sure that the three U.S. relievers who have not yet pitched–Craig Kimbrel, David Hernandez and Heath Bell–will all pitch today.